A US study has found increased dietary supplements use could save the nation more than $24 billion in healthcare costs. The study focused on calcium with vitamin D, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein with zeaxanthi,n and found that if intake levels were upped over the next five years, especially among the elderly, significant savings could be made.
"The rapid expansion of the population age 60 and older has a number of economic implications," the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance, which commissioned the study, said. "The people in this group, about 18 per cent of the population, account for about 30 percent of all health care expenditures."
The study updated research conducted by The Lewin Group in 2004 and 2005 that included a systematic review of the most rigorous scientific research available. "Rapidly escalating health care costs in the US have severe implications for our society as a whole," said Jon Benninger, president of DSEA. "This study provides valuable data that may lead to preventative health care solutions and address the budgetary problems facing federal and state health insurance programmes, corporate health cost managers and individual families."
The study found savings could be made in the following ways:
- Calcium with vitamin D — avoidance of 776,000 hospitalisations for hip fractures as well as avoidance of stays in skilled nursing facilities for some patients. Five-year savings: $16.1 billion.
- Folic acid — if a quarter of the 44 million American women of childbearing age but not taking folic acid began taking 400mcg daily, neural tube defects could be prevented in 3000 babies. Five-year savings: $1.4 billion.
- Omega-3 fatty acids — if over-65s took 1800mg per day, approximately 374,301 hospitalisations could be avoided. Five-year savings: $3.2 billion.
- Lutein with zeaxanthin — about 191,000 people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) could avoid dependent care due to advanced AMD causing loss of vision by taking 6-10mg of lutein with zeaxanthin. Five-year savings: $3.6 billion.